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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Georgia Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges for Discharging Waste into Potomac River

Defendant Managed Cleanup of Storm Sewer System at National Mall

Patrick Brightwell, 48, of Bogart, Georgia, pleaded guilty today to federal charges that he orchestrated the discharge of waste into the Potomac River at East Potomac Park from 2009 through 2011, during the same period he managed the company hired by the National Park Service to clean out the storm water sewer system on the National Mall.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division; U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr.; Special Agent in Charge David G. McLeod Jr. of the Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal enforcement program for the Middle Atlantic States; and Acting Chief Robert D. MacLean of the United States Park Police.

Brightwell pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of violating the Clean Water Act by knowingly discharging a pollutant without a permit and one count of presenting false claims to the United States. The Honorable James E. Boasberg scheduled sentencing for September 3, 2014. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Brightwell faces a likely range of 46 to 57 months in prison and a fine of up to $75,000. Brightwell also has agreed to pay $270,667 in restitution to the National Park Service, representing the losses for the work that was not properly performed. He also must pay a forfeiture money judgment totaling $230,899.

An eight-count indictment of Brightwell was unsealed following his arrest in Georgia on Dec. 5, 2013. The remaining charges will be dismissed as part of the guilty plea.

“While he was supposed to be helping to keep the National Mall – a treasure of our national park system – clean and free of trash, Brightwell was actually directing the dumping of debris and wastewater into the Potomac River,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Hirsch. “He now faces a stiff penalty for his callous and egregious violation of the Clean Water Act.”

“Patrick Brightwell harmed the U.S. taxpayer and our nation’s capital by directing his workers to dump waste in the Potomac River,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Instead of fulfilling a contract to take waste from the National Mall to a disposal facility, Brightwell polluted our water by telling his employees to cut corners regardless of the damage to our environment. The prison time that Brightwell now faces is an indication of how serious we are about enforcing the Clean Water Act.”

“The defendant dumped untreated wastewater and debris into one of our nation’s most treasured rivers, the Potomac,” said Special Agent in Charge McLeod. “Businesses and their contractors who flout the nation's environmental laws will be held accountable. EPA and its partner agencies are committed to vigorously working together to protect the public from this type of illegal and dangerous action.”

“The guilty pleas in this case shall serve as a reminder that environmental crimes will not be tolerated by the National Park Service, law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and the community," said Acting Chief MacLean.  “I applaud the collaborative efforts of every agency involved as a testament to the inherent dedication to protecting our nation's natural resources.”

According to a statement of offense signed by the government and defendant, from in or about 2007 through 2011, Brightwell was a manager of a company that had a contract with the National Park Service to clean the storm water sewer system on the National Mall. The contract required that waste removed from the Mall’s storm drains and oil-water separators be disposed of at a proper disposal facility in compliance with District of Columbia regulations and federal law.

Brightwell hired employees and subcontractors to perform work under the contract and oversaw their work from 2008 to 2011. To clean the structures, Brightwell and his company used a vacuum truck, a vehicle designed to gather, store, and transport such waste. When the storage compartment in the vacuum truck became full, workers would have to discharge waste from the truck prior to continuing the cleaning.

In 2009, 2010 and 2011, according to the statement of offense, Brightwell directed his employees and subcontractors to discharge waste from the vacuum truck at a storm drain near a parking lot in East Potomac Park, across Ohio Drive from the Potomac River. Brightwell concealed these discharges from the National Park Service and police. Workers also discharged waste at a manhole near Fort McNair in the District of Columbia.

During this period, Brightwell continued to invoice the National Park Service for cleaning services, but concealed and did not disclose that the waste was not being properly disposed, as required by the contract. From 2009 through 2011, Brightwell’s company received approximately $406,000 in payments from the National Park Service related to the contract.

According to the statement of offense, the employees and subcontractors illegally dumped waste at the parking lot approximately two-thirds of the time, and dumped the waste at a proper disposal facility in Fort Washington, Maryland, about one-third of the time.

The subcontractor, B&P Environmental LLC, and a B&P employee working on June 6, 2011, both pleaded guilty in November 2014 to violations of the Clean Water Act before the U.S. District Court. As part of their pleas, both the company and employee agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation. Both the company and employee are awaiting sentencing.

The case was investigated by Special Agent S. Christopher Michael of the EPA and Detective Jon Crichfield of the U.S. Park Police and supported by Environmental Protection Specialists Jerry Crutchley and Justin Young. It is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Lana Pettus of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan P. Hooks of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Assistance was provided by Paralegal Specialist Ashleigh Nye of DOJ’s Environmental Crimes Section and Paralegal Specialists Krishawn Graham and Donna Galindo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Press Release Number: 
Updated September 15, 2014